A brief history of the cherry picker

The Cherry Picker is a well-established piece of machinery that can be seen up and down the country being used across a number of industries. For anyone that drives on the M25 in the UK, cherry pickers provide a change of scenery just north of Heathrow Airport with a famous display of cherry pickers all at different heights. There is no doubting that they are an integral part of the modern world and are arguably amongst the most important inventions of the 20th century – at least for industrial uses.

cherry picker

Everyone knows what a cherry picker is and what it does but not many people will know about where it has come from, how it was developed and by whom. There are also so fascinating uses that the cherry picker was not initially designed for but its versatility has led to. So, let’s begin with a crash course in the history of the cherry picker and it’s journey to being one of the most useful pieces of machinery in the world.

Inception

The cherry picker is a fairly modern invention by Jay Eitel in 1944. His invention of the highly manoeuvrable, easy to use truck with a telescopic arm – what we know as the cherry picker – was born out of frustration. He spent the summer of 1944 picking cherries by hand using a ladder, this tedious experience of moving the ladder continuously led him to think there was a better and more efficient method. He designed his cherry picker during the evenings and weekends and from his home in California he built the first prototype.

By 1953, Jay had founded Telsta Corporation in Sunnyvale, California and was commercially producing aerial lifts, or cherry pickers, for the communications and utilities industry. Some would credit this invention as one of the main reasons for the world having such widespread telecoms industries, predominantly due to the fact telephone cable could now be placed from a moving vehicle. It was in 1954 that Telsta Corporation really took off with orders being placed by a large number of utility companies looking to be more efficient.

Over the course of 22 years Jay Eitel was granted 65 patents relating to cherry pickers and continued to develop new ideas up until his retirement in 1976. Although he was retired, Jay’s invention went strength from strength – as is evident today – and his original Telsta branded products are still being produced and sold, albeit by a different company. Not many people will know the name of Jay Eitel but his contribution to the modern world should not be underestimated.

Modern day uses

As previously mentioned, there are now many industries outside of utility companies that use cherry pickers every day, some of them were probably beyond the expectations of Jay Eitel but it goes to show how a portable aerial platform can revolutionise different industries. The obvious industries that stick out are ones that involve telegraph poles, the original external users of the cherry picker, and the fruit picking industry, the industry Jay Eitel originally built his machine for.

The cleaning industry is another large user of the cherry picker, using them for high access cleaning jobs. They have made this type of cleaning a lot safer and more efficient as it has reduced the need for scaffolding and ladders, you can now have all the equipment you need next to you and move from the ground to heights in a matter of moments. This is part of the reason for the use by the emergency services as well, it gives the fire service a platform to reach heights to both put fires out and to make rescue operations quicker and easier.

One of the most interesting industries to adopt the cherry picker to enhance its product is the film and TV industry. In order to achieve aerial or high angled shots filmmakers have been utilising the cherry picker for decades. It gives a stable platform for a cameraman to film from and opens up many other possibilities in the style of shot available to the director. There have even been adaptations to cherry pickers with the basket being removed and replaced by a gimbal and camera.

There are many uses for cherry pickers and it is certainly an invention that has increased productivity and efficiency across the world. It is very much an undervalued addition to machinery and goes about its business both quietly and efficiently – very much like its creator. Jay Eitel is not the most famous inventor or entrepreneur but in its own peculiar way his invention, the cherry picker, has revolutionised the work place for many people across the world.

This article was provided by Mike James, an independent content writer in the construction business – working alongside companies such as cherry picker specialists MC Property Maintenance and High Access, who were consulted over the information in this piece.

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